There have been so many recurring praises about this beautiful country from fellow travellers and it was definitely one of the countries that we looked forward to visiting the most. But on the other hand, people whom have yet to visit Iran have the common mindset that Iran is dangerous and that we were crazy to even think of visiting this country. Well, this made us even more curious to find out and to experience Iran for ourselves.
Our first stop in Iran was at the holiest city, Mashhad, where we had our first biggest culture shock. Firstly, the ladies here dressed very very differently from where we came from. They had to wear a black chador (literally translates as “tent” in English) which is basically this large loose piece of cloth that they use to cover their entire body.
Almost all the ladies were wearing a black chador, which made us wonder if black was a holy colour. But later we found out that they usually wear black as it was presumably the least attractive colour and also, it allowed them to look the same.
The women in Iran were also not allowed to show their hair, skin and body contours in public. We knew about this beforehand, but we did not realize that it was that strict. Even if you’re a foreigner, you will also not be spared. Police will stop and warn you if you do not abide by their moral rules.
On my second day in Iran, I took off my scarf for a short while in public to retie my hair, a police car stopped by the road shortly and warned my guesthouse owner, Vali, who was with us at that point of time that I should cover my hair. There were also times when I forgot to wear my scarf and had to run back to the guesthouse to retrieve it.
In public buses and trains, women also have to be separated from the men. Women have to sit at the back of the bus and there are special train cabins just for women only. It was strange sitting at the back of the bus together with the rest of the women in black chador and Daniel sitting at the front of the bus together with the men. Also, we felt kind of out of place with our striking jackets that made us stand out from the ubiquitous sea of black.
In the southern regions of Iran, the ladies there dressed differently. Their chadors are usually more colourful and patterned and some could be seen wearing a fabric niqab that covers the top half of their face.
We felt like celebrities when in Iran as the Iranians were just so friendly! Almost every Iranian greeted us exuberantly as we walked past them and some even wanted to have their photo taken together with us. We were definitely not used to this overwhelming attention and adulation!
Couch surfing is also a big thing here in Iran as the locals are so eager to practice their English and to meet people from other countries. No wonder they say that the Iranians are the epitome of genuine hospitality. In fact, we had one of our best couch surfing experiences in Iran.
Next up, getting shocked by the local cuisine! Well, for a starter, here’s what we have on the menu. Your choice please? heh (in case you’re wondering, we settled for sausage pizza in the end…haha)
So here’s how the sheep brain looks like…and guess what, we actually did try one of these delicacies! The size of 1 brain is around the size of your fist, or maybe even smaller. Well, we were surprised that it actually tasted quite nice! The texture is almost similar to egg white and it taste quite salty and delicious! (That’s if you can stomach it down without thinking that it’s a brain!) We had it with tomato sausage spaghetti (yeah we know, what a weird combi…tomato sausage spaghetti plus 1 fried sheep brain) and it was quite a good mix. You should try it too if you get the chance to! 😉
Okay, another popular local delicacy. Sheep head stew, complete with the eyeballs, ears and tongue. Okay, this, we did not try 🙁 Although our Japanese friend tried it and told us that it was delicious! Haha, maybe if you’re game enough to try it, do share your experience with us!
Lastly, we were also surprised to see how modern Iran is, or at least her capital Tehran. It was quite a beautiful mix actually, from beautiful ancient buildings with years of history to modern skyscrapers! Very impressive!
After awhile, we got used to the Iranian’s culture and customs and we started to fit in more comfortably. It soon became a habit for me to put on my headscarf before heading out. Overall, we really enjoyed Iran thoroughly and our final verdict is that Iran is safe for travel and we’ll definitely recommend this sublime country to any open-minded traveller who’s looking for a fresh and interesting travel experience.